To quote John Waters: “If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!”
Being well-read is truly one of the sexiest things any queer can do, this I promise you. Whether you want to impress someone, have conversation fodder at parties, or just feed your mind with new ideas, you should always be getting new books on your roster. *RuPaul voice* Because reading is WHAT? A sign of emotional and intellectual depth!!!
This was an incredible year for books and for queer authors. You can stay on top of your reading list by adding some of the greatest minds of our queer generation to your cart as a post-holiday treat. Feast your eyes!
The title says a lot, but the book says even more. As a trans woman, Vivek has a reason to be afraid of the ongoing violence and toxic masculinity that formed her childhood (and now adulthood). In a very raw, first-hand account of her trauma and journey to selfhood, Vivek leaves no stone unturned when asking the questions about what it means to be a person forced to fear men, simply by existing.
After loving and following Guy’s comedic work on Twitter and through Chelsea Lately, I thought I had an idea of what kind of book he would put out into the world — perhaps one that was crass, at times satirical, and screamingly homosexual. His book of memoirs is all those things, but with an added layer of depth that catches you by surprise. Talking through the universal experience of growing up as a fat queer in rural California, Guy will have you laughing and sighing thought this lovely debut.
This was the book your gay social media feed could not have avoided even if you tried — and for good reason! The critical acclaim and popularity of this book was rightly earned by its biting wit and incisive critique of how queer people in America have perhaps come a bit further than Black people in America, and how that affects a queer Black man like Michael. In a funny, impassioned retelling of his childhood, almost-priesthood, relationships, and more, this book is like if David Sedaris was, well, better.
In an absolutely enrapturing debut novel, this story follows Ada, who is born in Nigeria and immediately demonized. Exploring the true-to-life world of ogbanje — when an Igbo spirit, born into a human body, expresses itself outside the gender binary — Akwaeke’s experience as a trans person finds parallel in this dark, yet powerful narrative. This book was recommended to me more than any other this year because of its originality and brave foray into a story that has not yet been told.
Michelle Tea is one of the most prolific and underappreciated queer writers of our time. After a lifetime of hilarious, honest, and pioneering books documenting the events of her insane lesbian antics, both in nonfiction and roman à clefs, the title of her most recent book reads a bit ironic, and she knows it. In a collection of essays that defy the genre, this is one by Michelle not to be ignored, particularly the essay “How to Not Be a Queer Douchebag,” which is required reading for all you kids.
In 2015, every 16-year-old girl in Sweden was given a copy of We Should All Be Feminists in an effort to universalize a conversation about progressive womanhood in their country. If I were to give one book to every 16-year-old boy in America, this would be it. In a quick, blisteringly honest memoir told in vignettes, Thomas breaks down the construction of his masculinity as a trans person, and what that construction might mean to the rest of the nation.
The state of the great, gay novel is a bit lackluster these days. We haven’t had a definitive gay epic since A Little Life, and stay constantly starved for a good one. Even though this book was also written by a straight woman, its ability to balance friendship, joy, and redemption in the wake of the devastation of the AIDS crisis is no small feat. The authenticity, research, ingenuity, and brilliance of this book gives it an immediate place in the canon.
Darnell doesn’t preach anymore, but this book is sure to take you to church. In a stunning memoir, the book unpacks the author’s studies in theology and applies them to experiences of trauma. Darnell is one of the foremost minds of our queer generation, weaving new ideas on race, feminism, activism, and anti-colonial thought into the stories of his Black, queer life and the hardship that comes with it. My greatest hope is that the magnitude and success of a book like this will pave the way for even more black, queer voices to come.
To call Charlene Carruthers the Audre Lorde of our generation might be a bit sacrilege, so I won’t say it (but will let you make that inference if you read it and so believe). Drawing on grassroots organizing traditions, as well as the Haitian Revolution, the American Civil Rights movement, queer movements, and feminist movements, this fire-under-your-ass manifesto is a handbook for any queer person living in Trump’s America (or any America, for that matter). Empower your mind and be the leader you know you can be with this gift of a book upending modern activism in a 21st Century way.
There is not a book out this year, or for many years in recent memory, that did what Alexander Chee did. In a collection of mini memoirs, Chee winds together the story of his life ranging topics from travel, trauma, stories of first love, to the first time he did drag, to racism, to the human cost of the AIDS crisis. With absolutely gorgeous prose, Chee strikes the perfect balance of teaching you a lesson and equipping you with wisdom, without pandering or sensationalizing. This man is the mentor you never had, and continues to be one of the best writers in the game.